Many mothers-to-be wonder if it is safe to use a foot spa while pregnant. It stands to reason that a bubbling, vibrating spa could be helpful in relieving tension and helping with problems such as swollen ankles (edema) and aching feet. A relaxing session in a foot spa can also help improve blood circulation in the lower legs.
Even with these positives, some health practitioners warn against foot massage or use of a foot spa while pregnant. In this article, we will explore the reasons why and offer some sound advice and alternatives. Read on to learn more.
Can foot massage induce labour?
It’s easy to see that there are some compelling reasons to use a foot spa while pregnant, but unfortunately there are also some compelling reasons to refrain. When using a vibrating foot spa or foot massager (especially Shiatsu foot massagers) pressure points on the soles of the feet are stimulated.
Professional opinion and anecdotal evidence caution that this stimulation could induce labour by causing uterine contractions. For this reason, it may be a good idea to avoid use of a foot spa until the third trimester of your pregnancy.
Talk it over with your obstetrician. If you do decide to use a foot spa, don’t overdo it. Read the instructions that come with your spa very carefully. Don’t exceed the recommended session time, and take care not to use types of essential oils or other substances that might compromise your safety while pregnant.
Tips about essential oil aromatherapy
There are some foot spas that are damaged by the use of essential oils, while use of these oils is safe for other brands. Be sure to read the information that comes with your spa to determine whether use of essential oils is recommended.
If so, choose your oils carefully. Here are a few common essential oils that are generally safe to use for aromatherapy while pregnant:
- Frankincense reduces anxiety and may lower blood pressure.
- Geranium has a bright scent and a soothing effect.
- Common Lavender is calming and centering.
- German Chamomile has a calming effect.
- Tea Tree Oil is bracing and anti-fungal.
Some essential oils to avoid include:
- Basil may negatively affect cell development in the fetus.
- Juniper berry can negatively impact kidney function.
- Rose and sage may stimulate bleeding in the womb.
- Rosemary can cause a rise in blood pressure.
- Nutmeg may act as a mild hallucinogenic.
Before adding anything to your foot bath, consult your obstetrician.
What about a plain foot soak?
You can always soak your feet in your foot spa without the bubbles and vibration or simply use a basin. A soak in warm water laced with Epsom salts can work wonders to wash away stress and reduce edema. Because Epsom salts contain generous quantities of magnesium (which soaks easily into the skin) using it in a foot bath can help improve nerve function, strengthen muscles, improve digestion and support bone strength and your immune system.
What are the risks?
It’s important to maintain a steady body temperature when you are pregnant. Excessive heat can damage the developing fetus. That’s why pregnant women must be careful not to bathe in water that is over 38 degrees Celsius or 100 degrees Fahrenheit. As a general rule of thumb, it’s wise to keep your foot soaks warm, rather than hot, as well.
If you have diabetes, foot spas and foot soaks can be dangerous even if you are not pregnant. If you have a small nick or cut on your foot, bacteria can enter and lead to serious (even life-threatening) infection. Take normal precautions by examining your feet daily and keeping all of your foot-soaking equipment scrupulously clean. Remember, you are taking risks for two now!
Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
Because regular foot spa use and/or foot soaks can help lighten your mood, reduce edema, improve circulation and provide much-needed “down-time”, careful indulgence may very well present more benefits than risks. Just remember to exercise moderation in temperatures and the amount of time spent using a spa or soaking your feet. Consult with your obstetrician to determine whether foot soaking or use of a foot spa is safe for you during your pregnancy.